Due to COVID-19 and the many business restrictions that were implemented to stop the spread, many Arizona businesses have been forced to shut down and let their employees go. In fact, at the peak of COVID-19 employee layoffs, 13.4% of Arizona’s population was unemployed and collecting unemployment benefits to pay for necessities such as food and housing for themselves and their families.
While The majority of Arizonans collecting unemployment benefits are doing so legally, about 25,000 unemployment claims have been flagged as fraudulent and as of September 2020, 5,000 of these unemployment claims have been determined by Arizona’s Department of Economic Security to be fraudulent. Due to the increase of unemployment fraud, Arizona’s Attorney General has increased the auditing of the recipients of unemployment benefits as well as the Attorney General has directed prosecutors to crack down on unemployment fraud and to charge those who are caught committing this fraud.
If you improperly applied for and received unemployment funds, you are facing serious penalties if charged and you will need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist you with your case. Call the criminal defense attorney’s at JacksonWhite Law today to schedule your free case review.
What is Unemployment Fraud?
Fraud is one of the most common crimes committed in Arizona and throughout the United States. Fraud is an intentional action to mislead another person or entity for either monetary or personal gain, or in simpler words fraud is tricking someone or a business/government into giving you money that you are not eligible to receive.
Most cases of unemployment fraud occur when a worker both intentionally and knowingly makes false statements or misrepresents their situation in order to obtain unemployment insurance payments that they are not legally eligible for. If you made a simple mistake when filing for unemployment benefits, this can be viewed as committing fraud so it is important that
you check your benefits statements often to ensure all of the data was entered correctly and that a mistake was not made. If you notice that there was a mistake, contact the Department of Economic Security as soon as you can to ensure the mistake is fixed and you are not charged with a crime.
Examples of actions considered to be fraudulent:
- Using a fake name
- Using someone else’s personal information (Identity Theft)
- Lying about your actual income amount
- Lying about the total hours you work
- Lying about where you work
- Lying about your work status
- Misrepresenting employment efforts
- Earning money “under the table” and not reporting it
Example: If you lost your main job but are still doing work on the side, this side job and all income must be reported when filing for unemployment insurance. If you intentionally do not disclose this source of “under the table” money it is considered unemployment fraud and you can be charged with a crime..
If you have been contacted by the Arizona Department of Economic Security or have been arrested for unemployment fraud, call the veteran criminal defense lawyers at JacksonWhite Law today to schedule your free case review.
What are the Potential Penalties for Unemployment Fraud?
Those who commit unemployment fraud will face both civil and criminal penalties for their actions. Usually, the civil penalty involves a straight-forward fine, whereas criminal penalties often result in larger fines, time in prison and a period of probation.
If you have been arrested for unemployment fraud, these are the civil and criminal penalties you are facing:
- Repayment: If convicted of unemployment insurance fraud, you will have to repay all of the funds you improperly received. This includes both the funds you were entitled to and the extra funds that came from false information you provided. If you can’t pay back all of the money you received, the court may take financial actions against you and your property to ensure repayment.
- Incarceration: In Arizona, unemployment insurance fraud is a class 6 felony which means if convicted you face up to 2 years in prison for each false statement made.
- Fines: Each false statement submitted to the Arizona Department of Economic Security carries a fine of up to $150,000 and each count of fraud can be added, meaning that if you used a fake identity and you lied about where you work you will be facing up to $300,000 in fines.
Defenses to Unemployment Fraud
There are legal defenses to assist you if you have been charged with unemployment fraud in Arizona. Here are three possible defenses that Arizona’s Veteran criminal defense team have used to protect their clients:
- Stolen Identity: It is possible that someone stole your identity and they were the ones who filed for unemployment insurance
- Mistaken Identity: It is possible for an identity to be mistaken due to having a similar name to someone else.
- Lack of Intent: The prosecuting attorney must prove that your actions were intentional and were not a simple mistake that occurred while filling out confusing documents.
Each case of unemployment fraud is different and the facts of the case are based on specific, and distinct actions and this means that the legal defense used differs for each case. JacksonWhite’s criminal defense team has crafted manyegal defenses on their clients behalf and they have helped their clients obtain great case results.
If you have been charged with unemployment fraud, the criminal defense team at JacksonWhite Law is here to provide you with legal advice and the defense needed to obtain the best results.
Arizona revised statute 13-2310 is the guiding statute for determining the legal consequences of committing fraud. According to A.R.S 13-2310, those who commit fraud are guilty of a class two felony and if the amount of money involved is more than $100,000 or the sale/marketing of opioids was involved, then the person who committed the fraud is not eligible for a suspension of sentence, probation, pardon or release from confinement.
The charges related to committing insurance fraud are tough, and having an experienced defense attorney by your side will play a pivotal role in obtaining the best outcome for your case. With results such as the dropping and reduction of charges, lessening of penalties and prevention of jail time, the criminal defense attorneys at Jackson White Law are the right choice for you.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.